The Call of the Sacred Circle of Life - The Call: Remembering Who You Are

Kindling the Native Spirit: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life - Denise Linn 2015

The Call of the Sacred Circle of Life
The Call: Remembering Who You Are

Physicists acknowledge that the atoms and molecules in all things are in constant motion. They declare what ancient native mystics have always known—that beneath the surface of physical objects, energy swirls into form, dissolves, and coalesces once again. The world is in a constant dance of fluid patterns of ebbing and flowing energy. Underlying this motion is a cyclical, spiraling cosmic order. This understanding of the great cycles within all of life is what Black Elk, the renowned holy man of the Oglala Lakota Sioux, called the sacred hoop or sacred circle:

Everything an Indian does is in a circle and that is because the power of the world works in circles and everything tries to be round. . . . The sky is round and I have heard that the Earth is round like a ball and so are all the stars. The wind, in its power, whirls. Birds make their nests in a circle for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons, from great circles in their changing, always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle . . . and so it is in everything where power moves [Black Elk Speaks: The Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux (1961), as told to John G. Neihardt].

In past times, native people honored the sacred circle and what it represented. The circle was so important that it played a central theme in tribal ceremonies throughout the world. Rituals of purification were often performed in a circular manner. When the elders came together in council, it was in a circle so that all were included, each having an equal say. Sacred dancing was often performed in a circle. The circle evoked the feeling of completeness and wholeness; it allowed one to align with the center of the universe. The circle represented totality—the beginning and the end. When asked to delineate one’s life with some kind of timeline, those in Western culture usually draw a line, while those in native cultures often create a circle. This linear/cyclical vision of life is one of the major differences between a Western view and a native view of the world.

The sacred circle is a healing tool that can be used to soothe your soul by symbolically molding together the fragmented parts of the self. In the following sections, you’ll learn to answer the call of each of the four directions that comprise the cardinal points of the circle and to integrate each of them into your life.


In Western culture we usually think of medicine as the pills that a doctor gives us, but to Native Americans, medicine is what heals. It’s a very different definition of the word, and it’s one that puts the emphasis on wellness and balance rather than sickness. To a native person, spirit heals, right actions heal, and living in harmony with the land heals. All of this is a form of medicine.

Many people think of a medicine wheel as simply a Native American circle of stones. However, what they don’t understand is that a medicine wheel is much more than a gathering of stones; it’s a symbolic representation of the cyclical cosmology of life.

Medicine wheels have been used for mystical purposes by tribal cultures for a long time. Some of the oldest found by archaeologists date back 4,500 years ago. Presumably, this tradition goes back even further. The stones are only a physical representation of the sacred circle that encompasses creation. It’s an outer manifestation of an inner mystical force. It represents the four elements and the four directions. It’s also a circle of protection and healing.


Using ceremony, intent, and love, you can create a medicine wheel that can be a protected sanctuary and a sacred space where a vortex of energy can build. As you spend time in stillness in your medicine wheel, it can help you become even more balanced. (In Chapter 2, you’ll learn how to build your own medicine wheel.)